In 1883, Wisconsin-based Kohler Co. delivered a breakthrough innovation: Founder John Michael Kohler had covered a cast-iron horse trough with enamel, thereby creating the first modern, comfortable bathtub for home use. Since then the company has continued to innovate, delivering classic product lines for kitchens and bathrooms that combine comfort, style and grace.
This week at the International Consumer Electronics Show (CES), Kohler is debuting its latest breakthrough, KOHLER Konnect, a new platform and suite of smart fixtures that can interact with their owners through voice commands, adapt to user preferences and collect data to provide valuable water usage feedback. It’s Kohler’s first appearance at CES – and a signal Kohler is committed to growing leadership in the smart home movement.
Kohler is building this next generation of smart kitchen and bath products — as well as the associated app — using Microsoft Azure Internet of Things (IoT) solutions, such as Azure IoT Hub and Azure Stream Analytics. These tools enable the products to process thousands of data points and automate actions on command. The Kohler app and devices connect via the customer’s Wi-Fi to Azure IoT Hub, which acts as a command center to process queues, trigger actions and collect information about the health of a system.
KOHLER Konnect allows consumers to personalize their bath and kitchen experiences and automate everyday tasks through voice control or by selecting their preferences using a convenient app, also built on the Azure cloud platform. With KOHLER Konnect’s showering system, for example, users can adjust water temperature; control showerheads and body sprays; and adjust music, lighting, steam and shower duration — all by simply speaking to the shower.
The app also can automatically and from anywhere in the home fill a bath at precisely the desired depth and temperature, or assist in the kitchen by providing measured water from the faucet on demand.
Kohler chose Azure to power its intelligent products after reviewing the platform against competing cloud services, concluding that Azure’s global presence, particularly in the Asian market — specifically in China — would give it a leg up in providing responsive luxury consumer services there. Kohler also put Azure through a comprehensive security audit at the data, network and facility levels, ensuring the service could keep customer data safe in transit and at rest, in homes and in Azure datacenters.
The fact that Azure IoT Suite is also a cohesive, end-to-end platform gave Kohler a distinct advantage in quickly bringing its new product concept to market. Azure contains a full portfolio of IoT development services, which the company credits with cutting development cycles in half while also significantly lowering the startup investment. In the end, Azure IoT allowed Kohler to go from “zero to demo” in just two months, getting the company into the IoT space and on the ground floor of an exciting new market.
Since Azure enables Kohler to connect its devices to the cloud and process data at scale, the new line of products will enable the company to uncover new insights about how customers are using the products to guide future development for both new intelligent services and product design, continuing the company’s long history of innovation.
Kohler is launching KOHLER Konnect globally at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show. The first KOHLER Konnect products will be available in China and the United States in the first quarter of 2018, and soon after in other markets.
If you’re at CES this week, check out Kohler’s display in the Smart Home Marketplace at booth 40521.